All Whites-South Africa friendly looks like farce

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 23:12 20/05/2014

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The All Whites' May 30 friendly against South Africa is descending into a farce, with 'Bafana Bafana' set to field a B team in Auckland.

South Africa coach Gordon Igesund tonight announced that 11 players had pulled out of his original 18-man squad to tour Australia and New Zealand, "due to injuries, and other reasons."

"Some clubs were not willing to release certain players as well," Igesund told reporters at a press conference at Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo Airport.

"I mean we only found out about some of them on Monday night."

Igesund said there was a possibility of further withdrawals.

"Our team doctor is also going to assess [Oupa] Manyisa and [Thabo] Matlaba after this conference. We will then know if they will be able to play or not."

South Africa play Australia in Sydney on Monday before tackling the All Whites four days later.

The friendly games fall outside of Fifa's international window, meaning players are not obligated to make themselves available.

England-based All Whites' stars Winston Reid, Tommy Smith and Chris Wood have made themselves unavailable, while South Africa's captain Itumeleng Khune, Crystal Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi and star striker Bernard Parker are among those scratched from the trip.

Speaking before Igesund's press conference, NZ Football high performance director Fred de Jong said he was expecting a near full-strength visiting squad.

''As it stands there's been no requests for changes to airline tickets, hotel bookings or anything like that," de Jong said.

"So as it stands the expectation is the team will be the squad that we've been sent previously.''

De Jong was hopeful that Kiwi football fans would turn out to Mt Smart Stadium regardless of the strength of South Africa's team.

South Africa are ranked No 65 in the world, with the All Whites 111.

''People probably wouldn't know a lot of the South African players anyway," de Jong said.

"It's not like you've got these massive names coming out of Europe or whatever that are suddenly pulling the pin. I would hope that people see it as an opportunity to support New Zealand. The likes of Ryan Thomas, Marco Rojas, they're the ones that are going to take us forward. It's a good chance to see them on home soil. They're a good opposition, South Africa, regardless of who they bring.''

Both NZ and South Africa failed to qualify for this year's World Cup in Brazil.

But Football Federation Australia are unlikely to be as diplomatic as their NZ counterparts.

Monday's game at a half sold-out ANZ Stadium is a crucial hit-out for the World Cup-bound Socceroos, who have been drawn in a group of death including Spain, the Netherlands and Chile.

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All Whites players are also unlikely to be thrilled with the news, given they have given up their holidays to play in the match.

- Stuff

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